9.2 Copyright Policy

Establishes Stanford policy on copyright ownership and defines administrative procedures for policy implementation.


Stanford Board of Trustees


Questions about this policy can be answered by:

Ku, Katharine

Executive Director, Office of Technology Licensing

Office of Technology Licensing (OTL)

(650) 723-0651

1. Introduction

This document describes Stanford policies and associated administrative procedures for copyrightable materials and other intellectual property. Its objectives are:

  • to enable the University to foster the free and creative expression and exchange of ideas and comment

  • to preserve traditional University practices and privileges with respect to the publication of scholarly works

  • to establish principles and procedures for sharing income derived from copyrightable material produced at the University

  • to protect the University's assets and imprimatur

Back to top

2. General Policy Statement

Copyright is the ownership and control of the intellectual property in original works of authorship which are subject to copyright law. It is the policy of the University that all rights in copyright shall remain with the creator unless the work is a work-for-hire (and copyright vests in the University under copyright law), is supported by a direct allocation of funds through the University for the pursuit of a specific project, is commissioned by the University, makes significant use of University resources or personnel, or is otherwise subject to contractual obligations.

NOTE: Policy governing patentable software is contained in the Research Policy Handbook document entitled Inventions, Patents and Licensing.

A. Books, Articles and Similar Works, Including Unpatentable Software

In accord with academic tradition, except to the extent set forth in this policy, Stanford does not claim ownership to pedagogical, scholarly, or artistic works, regardless of their form of expression. Such works include those of students created in the course of their education, such as dissertations, papers and articles. The University claims no ownership of popular nonfiction, novels, textbooks, poems, musical compositions, unpatentable software, or other works of artistic imagination which are not institutional works and did not make significant use of University resources or the services of University non-faculty employees working within the scope of their employment.

B. Institutional Works

The University shall retain ownership of works created as institutional works. Institutional works include works that are supported by a specific allocation of University funds or that are created at the direction of the University for a specific University purpose. Institutional works also include works whose authorship cannot be attributed to one or a discrete number of authors but rather result from simultaneous or sequential contributions over time by multiple faculty and students. For example, software tools developed and improved over time by multiple faculty and students where authorship is not appropriately attributed to a single or defined group of authors would constitute an institutional work. The mere fact that multiple individuals have contributed to the creation of a work shall not cause the work to constitute an institutional work.

C. Patent and Copyright Agreement: Stanford Form SU-18

All faculty, staff, student employees, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, as well as non-employees who participate or intend to participate in teaching and/or research or scholarship projects at Stanford are bound by this policy. They are also required to sign the Stanford University Patent and Copyright Agreement (referred to as SU-18). See Research Policy Handbook, entitled Inventions, Patents, and Licensing. Except as described in Section 1.B. above, this agreement assigns rights to copyrightable works resulting from University projects to Stanford. This policy applies, and those subject to this policy are deemed to assign their rights to copyrightable works, whether or not a SU-18 is signed and is on file.

Royalty income received by the University for such works will normally be distributed in accordance with University policy (see Section 2.B.2 below). Physical embodiments of copyrightable works may also be subject to the University's policy on Tangible Research Property, also in the Research Policy Handbook document.

D. Works of Non-Employees

Under the Copyright Act, works of non-employees such as consultants, independent contractors, etc. generally are owned by the creator and not by the University, unless there is a written agreement to the contrary. As it is Stanford's policy that the University shall retain ownership of such works (created as institutional rather than personal efforts, as described in Section 1.C, above), Stanford will generally require a written agreement from non-employees that ownership of such works will be assigned to the University.
 Examples of works which the University may retain non-employees to prepare are:

  • reports by consultants or subcontractors

  • computer software

  • architectural or engineering drawings

  • illustrations or designs

  • artistic works

E. Videotaping and Related Classroom Technology

Courses taught and courseware developed for teaching at Stanford belong to Stanford. Any courses which are videotaped or recorded using any other media are Stanford property, and may not be further distributed without permission from the cognizant academic dean (or, in the case of SLAC, by the director). Blanket permission is provided for evanescent video or other copies for the use of students, or for other University purposes. Prior to videotaping, permission should be obtained from anyone who will appear in the final program. In this regard, see the University's policy on Consent to Use of Photographic Images, which is found in the Privacy of Student Records section of the Stanford Bulletin.

F. Contractural Obligations of the University

This Copyright Policy shall not be interpreted to limit the University's ability to meet its obligations for deliverables under any contract, grant, or other arrangement with third parties, including sponsored research agreements, license agreements and the like. Copyrightable works that are subject to sponsored research agreements or other contractual obligations of the University shall be owned by the University, so that the University may satisfy its contractual obligations.

G. Use of University Resources

Stanford University resources are to be used solely for University purposes and not for personal gain or personal commercial advantage, nor for any other non-University purposes. Therefore, if the creator of a copyrightable work makes significant use of the services of University non-faculty employees or University resources to create the work, he or she shall disclose the work to the Office of Technology Licensing and assign title to the University. Examples of non-significant use include ordinary use of desktop computers, University libraries and limited secretarial or administrative resources. Questions about what constitutes significant use should be directed to the appropriate school dean or the Dean of Research.

Back to top

3. Explanations of Terms

A. Copyright

1. Copyrightable Works

Under the federal copyright law, copyright subsists in "original works of authorship" which have been fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. These works include:

  • Literary works such as books, journal articles, poems, manuals, memoranda, tests, computer programs, instructional material, databases, bibliographies;

  • Musical works including any accompanying words;

  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music;

  • Pantomimes and choreographic works (if fixed, as in notation or videotape);

  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, including photographs, diagrams, sketches and integrated circuit masks;

  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works such as videotapes;

  • Sound recordings.

2. Scope of Copyright Protection

Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, process, concept, discovery or the like, but only to the work in which it may be embodied, illustrated, or explained. For example, a written description of a manufacturing process is copyrightable, but the copyright only prevents unauthorized copying of the description; the process described could be freely copied unless it enjoys some other protection, such as patent.

Subject to various exceptions and limitations provided for in the copyright law, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies by sale or otherwise, and display or perform the work publicly. Ownership of copyright is distinct from the ownership of any material object in which the work may be embodied. For example, if one purchases a videotape, one does not necessarily obtain the right to make a public showing for profit.

The term of copyright in works created on or after January 1, 1978, is the life of the author plus seventy years. Copyright in works-for-hire is for ninety-five years from the date of first publication or one hundred twenty years from creation, whichever period first expires.

Go to RPH Chapter: